November 2012

A final note on the Thanksgiving tour

The B3 family made it back to Pittsburgh safely on Friday and we were able to enjoy a family dinner on Saturday. I’ve always felt fortunate to be able to have the kinds of feast many of us have grown accustomed to, but after our trip to Staten Island and Coney Island, I definitely felt I brought a lot more perspective to the table.

I wanted to leave you with the video from Coney Island, featuring former big leaguer John Halama and Nate Bliss from the Alliance for Coney Island. It was truly amazing what they’re doing there and again, thanks to Mr. Halama for coming out to assist.

I also wanted to remind everyone — a reminder to myself as well — that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done in the areas devastated by Sandy. Keep that in mind as you make decisions on where to make your charitable donations moving forward.

A Coney Island Thanksgiving to remember

When I decided to make this trip to the New York area for Thanksgiving, I must admit, there was a small part of me that wondered/worried that I would miss the standard Thanksgiving Day festivities.

After about five minutes on Coney Island today, that all vanished. When we decided to come, this is what I envisioned Thanksgiving Day could look like. Combined with our experiences on Staten Island yesterday, what happened today will give me and my kids (my mom, too!) some indellible memories.

The operation at MCU Park (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones) was impressive, thanks to the fine work of the Alliance for Coney Island (Once again, check out their site at coneyrecovers.org). They were handing out food, serving hot meals AND busing folks to a big catering hall for a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner. Simply amazing.

We got right to work, wherever help was needed, spending the next couple of hours bagging snacks, bagging hot turkey dinners and handing them out to people who came. And, sadly, there were a lot of people in need. I was told the line stretched out of the parking lot and down the street at 8 a.m., so even more kudos to the Alliance for Coney Island for serving all those people and helping them have some semblance of a holiday.

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Former big leaguer John Halama, in the slideshow above, who lives in Bay Ridge, came to help as well. And here’s the amazing thing. He was just fine being there without anyone knowing who he was. He just wanted to help his fellow New Yorkers out. I did make sure that NY1 interviewed him while they were down there — if anyone happened to see it, let me know — but he certainly wasn’t looking for publicity. He just wanted to help people. Oh, and he’s trilingual — didn’t even speak English until he was around 9 — who knew?

I’ll have video of this, with Halama and Nate Bliss from the Alliance for Coney Island, but didn’t have the wherewithal to get it done tonight. The work is just beginning. But I’ll tell you, New Yorkers are resilient. The positivity that came from these people, who have been through so much, was inspiring. As my son said so astutely, especially for an 11-year-old: “They’re all so appreciative.”

And that was my hope for this trip. To be inspired and hopefully inspire my kids. There’s a basic concept we talk about in our family — “living by our ideals” — and this felt like the perfect way to do this for this holiday. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of my children, watching them give food to families, to kids their own age at times, along with a smile. These two days are among my proudest as a parent.

So we’ll drive home tomorrow, and thanks to the wonderful Mrs. B3 and her parents (that’s right, I love my in-laws!), we’re having our own Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Without their flexibility and support, this wouldn’t have been so easy to pull off.

And I can assure you, for me and hopefully my two kids, we will never be the same. The folks we served today were appreciative. But it us who should give thanks, to have the ability to help in a time of need, to lift spirits when they are down. As my daughter said, when I asked her about what it was like to give food to kids her own age, she said, “I thought about that if you hadn’t moved from New York, maybe we could have been hit by the hurricane.” In other words, like with any of life’s tragedies, you learn that you never know when it could be you who needs help. The fact that my kids understand that, and the need to always pay it forward, is priceless.

OK, I’ve waxed on about this for long enough, but don’t be shocked if I do throw in some more posts on baseball meeting social consciousness in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

A visit to Staten Island

It was an eventful day on Wednesday for the B3 fam, our first full one since arriving in the NJ/NY area with a van full of canned goods. We drove to Staten Island, to the distribution center for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The distribution center, by the way, is a sight to behold. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was an abandoned building. It’s been painted, wired for electricity and unbelievably well-organized, so folks can come in and find the things they need. I liked what the Siller Foundation was doing from afar, but seeing it up close, I am blown away by what they’ve already accomplished.

Earlier in the day, former Met great John Franco was kind enough to go to the MLB.com studios to talk about the hurricane relief work going on and how baseball is involved. He’s been working with the Siller Foundation closely and also talked about the work that ConeyRecovers is doing on Coney Island (we will be there tomorrow, so if you’re volunteering, let me know and say hello. Former big leaguer John Halama will be there to help out). It’s a great interview, so I encourage all to watch.

After dropping off all the cans — see slideshow below for the B3 kids in action — we then got the chance to ride around the surrounding area with Gary Perone of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Gary has been instrumental in getting Minor League Baseball involved in efforts here (Staten Island, Brooklyn and down in Lakewood, NJ — three minor league markets hit hard). He also helped organize the Siller Foundation’s distribution center. So many New Yorkers have stepped up to help out, and Gary has done more than most. Seeing the devastation up close after having just seen TV footage is jarring, to say the least. I remember being in New Orleans the spring after Katrina and feeling the same way. The areas we saw were startling, if not quite as horrible as the tour of the lower 9th Ward I was on back then (there are areas in Staten Island and other places that are), but in some ways it was more startling to see one spot seem almost “back to normal” and another spot nearby condemned. There’s a long way to go, for sure.

After that tour, we met up with the folks from the Siller Foundation — meeting Frank Siller was a thrill and everyone there greeted us as family — and then headed to one of three Thanksgiving dinners being held for victims of the hurricane on Staten Island. Joining us was Major Leaguer Jason Marquis and he was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes. On the video, you can also see some footage of the distribution center.

It was an unbelievable day and evening, one we’ll never forget. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow on Coney Island has in store. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I, for one, am feeling incredibly grateful for everything in my life and all the people in  it, including the ones we just met who are doing such fine work here.

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A B3 Family Thanksgiving Adventure

You’ll have to forgive me over the next few days, as I take a quick break from the usual prospect fodder and share with anyone who might be interested in what most of the B3 clan is doing over the upcoming holiday.

After watching the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, we wanted to do something. So we packed up the van and drove to New Jersey.

No, that’s not all. First, the van was packed with can goods collected at the B3 offspring’s school (and synagogue). It was a pretty good haul.

 

After that was all organized, it was time for the fam to get going. In tow was yours truly, the two B3 kids and B3’s mom. (Mrs. B3 is getting a well-deserved break).

We made it to Jersey safely, where B3 headquarters will be until Friday, when we drive back to Pittsburgh. Here’s what’s on tap and I’ll try to get on here to update with photos, even video, getting the kids into the act, as time permits.

Wednesday:

  • Travel to the MLB.com studios for an interview with John Franco and all the work the New Yorker (and former closer) is doing to help in the region.
  • Drive the canned goods to Staten Island, dropping them off at the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation distribution center.
  • Tour some areas in Staten Island hit by the storm.
  • Accompany the Siller Foundation as they facilitate three different Thanksgiving Dinners for folks impacted by the hurricane. There should be some players, current and former, joining us (more on that tomorrow)

Thursday:

  • Head to Coney Island and help the efforts staged by ConeyRecovers. They need volunteers Wednesday and Thursday in the lot by the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones (a huge tip of the cap to the Cyclones’ Gary Perone, who’s been working tirelessly to help people in Brooklyn and Staten Island while helping to initiate the idea for these dinners). So if you’re in the area, head out and help out. The B3 will be there on Thursday to help organize and distribute food. ConeyRecovers has a big Thanksgiving Day meal planned as well.

AFL and Rookie of the Year success

I’m back in Arizona, watching the final night game here at Scottsdale Stadium, and started thinking about alumni from this league and how they fare during awards season. So I did some digging…

While one was unanimous and one was close, it really shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were this year’s Rookie of the Year Award winners.

It also shouldn’t shock anyone that both are Arizona Fall League alumni. For six years in a row now, at least one of the Rookies of the Year played in the AFL previously.

The Trout-Harper perfecta isn’t even that unusual. In five of the last seven seasons, starting with Huston Street and Ryan Howard’s ROY Awards in 2005, both winners cut their teeth here. The other dynamic duos:

Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Braun, 2007
Evan Longoria and Geovany Soto, 2008
Andrew Bailey and Chris Coghlan, 2009
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, 2012

Trout and Harper have something in common with Street and Howard. In both cases, the Rookie of the Year tandems both played in the AFL the year prior to winning the top rookie honor. Not only that, in both instances, the award winners were AFL teammates. In 2004, Street and Howard were Phoenix Desert Dogs. Last year, Trout and Harper played in the same Scottsdale Scorpions outfield.

There have now been 24 Rookies of the Year who once called the Arizona Fall League home.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at Cy Young Award winners.

In case you missed them, here are two more AFL team reports:

The Yankees report focuses on Mark Montgomery. Their video report takes a look at Montgomery, Slade Heathcott and Dellin Betances:

Gary Brown is the focus of the Giants report. In the video report, Brown, Joe Panik and Chris Dominguez are featured.

Finally, Stars of the Day for Monday and Tuesday:

Monday: We’ll go with Kevin Siegrist of the Cardinals, for his four-inning, one run performance. The lefty gave up four hits, walked one and struck out eight. He’s now 10th in ERA (2.37) and second in strikeouts (27).

Tuesday: The aforementioned Slade Heathcott gets the nod after going 4-for-5, including his first homer of the fall. He drove in two and scored a run. Heathcott is now fifth in the league in batting average (.371) and second in OPS (1.084).

AFL Reports: A’s and Reds

The Oakland A’s AFL report focuses on Grant Green. The video report looks at Green, James Simmons and Max Stassi.

I haven’t posted the Reds’ AFL video report on here. This might surprise you, but it talks about Billy Hamilton, along with Didi Gregorius and Donald Lutz.

 

And here are your Stars of the Day for Friday and Saturday:

 

Friday: Astros prospect George Springer had a perfect day, going 3-for-3 with  a pair of homers and two walks. He went 20-30 during the regular season and after a homer on Monday, he has four homers and five steals this fall.

Saturday: I don’t often give a Star to a pitcher who gives up a run, but I’ll make an exception here. Robbie Erlin of the Padres gave up a run on five hits over four innings, but he didn’t walk anyone and he struck out eight. He’s now second in the AFL in strikeouts with 25.

AFL Reports: White Sox, O’s and Braves

Been a busy week, what with participating in our democracy and all. Let’s catch up, shall we?

The report on the White Sox featured Trayce Thompson. The video report focused on Thompson, Carlos Sanchez and Andy Wilkins.


The Orioles’ report featured Jonathan Schoop, while the video report’s focus was on Schoop, Clay Schrader and Chris Petrini.

And, finally, the report on the Braves centered around Nick Ahmed , while the video report focused on Edward Salcedo, Ahmed and Cory Rasmus.

And a quick catch up on Stars of the Day:

Monday: Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks. The D-backs’ No. 5 prospect went 3-for-5 with a double, homer and 3 RBIs.

Tuesday: Nick Franklin of the Mariners. The M’s No. 3 prospect went 4-for-5, with two doubles and 6 RBIs.

Wednesday: Logan Darnell of the Twins. The left-hander went four innings, allowing no runs on one hit while walking none and striking out five in his first AFL start.

Thursday: Rymer Liriano of the Padres. The Padres’ No. 1 prospect went 3-for-5 with two doubles and 3 RBIs.

 

AFL Report: Royals

Since last we spoke, we’ve missed two team reports:

Here’s the Royals report, focusing on Whit Merrifield.

The video report hones in on Orlando Calixte and Brian Fletcher.

And here’s the Padres report, which features top prospect Rymer Liriano.

Their video report talks about Liriano, Cory Spangenberg and Nate Freiman.

 

Quick Star of the Day from Friday, again an in-person account, though the choices from the Surprise-Phoenix game are somewhat limited.

But I’ll mention the opposing shortstops. The Braves’ Nick Ahmed had just one hit, but it was a home run. The UConn product, Rising Stars participant and the Braves’ No. 10 prospect,  is hitting .326 this fall after a solid first full season in the Carolina League. But the Star goes to the other shortstop, the one for Surprise. Luis Sardinas is No. 7 on the Rangers’ Top 20. Just 19, Sardinas had a fine full-season debut, hitting .291 with 32 steals in the South Atlantic League. In the AFL, he’s hitting .364 in 33 at-bats. He went 3-for-4 on Friday and continues to impress scouts. Doesn’t seem fair, for a system that already has Elvis Andrus in the big leagues and Jurickson Profar knocking on the door soon, does it?

 

AFL report: Red Sox and Mets

Thursday’s AFL Report was on the Boston Red Sox, focusing on Bryce Brentz, the system’s No. 4 prospect (No. 70 overall).

The video report features Brentz, Michael Almanzar and Brock Huntziger.

Today’s report is about your New York Mets, featuring outfielder Darrell Ceciliani. The video report focuses on him and fellow outfielder Cesar Puello, the Mets’ No. 6 prospect.

 

Got two Stars of the Day for you, one from Wednesday and one — witnessed in person! — from Thursday.

For Wednesday, I’m going to go with T.J. House of the Indians. This is the second Star of the Day nod for the lefty and for good reason. He’s been solid this fall. On Wednesday, he went four shutout innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four. For the fall, he has a 1.59 ERA and .175 BAA over 17 IP. It’s been a pretty good way for House to cap off a successful 2012 season that saw him spend much of the year in Double-A.

For Thursday’s Star, I have to go with a guy I saw. Kevin Jensen has been mentioned here before, too, named the Star of the Day for last Thursday. I threw out some fun stuff from our friends at Trackman about how Jensen was among the leaders in hardest, and farthest, balls hit in the AFL. Well, he was at it again on Thursday at Salt River Fields. The Marlins’ outfielder went 3-for-3 in the game, driving in driving in a pair and scoring twice. His second hit was a laser triple to center field that hit the batter’s eye (without knowing the ground rules of the place, I thought at first it was gone). In his next at-bat, he crushed a ball out the opposite way. Not sure what Trackman would have to say about either, but they’d have to register somewhere on the hard hit balls list, I’d wager. I’m told that Jensen is more of a mistake hitter than anything else (he did strike out over 160 times in 2012 and his Double-A numbers weren’t great), but boy, he’s not missing any mistakes here so far this fall. He currently stands second in RBIs and SLG and he’s third in OPS.

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